PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The road to the judicial system was a long one for 44-year-old Donell Blount of Portsmouth. Before he earned the title of paralegal, his title was #1108428 at the Lawrenceville Correctional Center.

“For years I blamed everyone,” Blount said. “I blamed the judicial system, I blamed my trial attorney, I blamed the district attorney and I blamed my parents for my terrible upbringing,” Blount said.

In 1982, 10 On Your Side documented part of his upbringing. His mother, Joyce Blount, was among the hundreds of residents who were displaced in the P.L. Artis blighted housing scandal.

Years later, Donell Blount was arrested and later convicted, he says wrongly, on several felony charges. He said he is innocent of the charges filed against him, but admits to running a drug and stolen property operation from a barbershop.

Donell Blount
(Photo courtesy:Donell Blount)

While behind bars for 22 years and two months, Blount learned about the law.

“I read a thousand books,” Donell Blount said, “but where would I have had time to read a thousand books out here [in society]?

Behind bars last year, Blount finished the paralegal studies program with a near-perfect score.

“I knew that if I continued to do that throughout the course, someone would give me a job,” Blount said. “Someone would open the door and say here’s your chance.”

That someone was veteran attorney Michael Massie.

Attorneys Nathan Chapman and Michael Massie
(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

“When you have someone who is motivated to do the right thing, and I had an opportunity to help, I decided to give him a try,” Massie said. … “He’s doing very well.”

Blount is studying for a bachelor’s degree in political science and he has plans to read law, pass the bar exam and then become a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“I would utilize my law degree as a way to run a nonprofit and get to help youth in their formative years,” Blount said, “and try to break some of these mental cycles.”